Pumping Success Into Your Brewery or Distillery

By: Gerald Dlubala

For breweries and distilleries, the beer and spirits that flow within drive business, but the pumps used to move that product can easily be considered the heart of production. If a pump fails, product flow stops and downtime eats away at production and delivery schedules. Having a quality pump lessens the chances of failure, so reliability and quality are key.

  Taking the time and effort to research the best pumps for the money and making a quality investment will make all the difference. “With the risk of sounding glib, you really do get what you pay for,” said Ross Battersby, Sales & Design contact for Carlsen & Associates. “There is usually a bit of a conflict between what the business accountant says is affordable and what the winemaker, distiller or brewmaster really wants and needs. The accountant almost always wins, but there is an inherent danger in selecting a pump on the basis of cost alone. Cheaper pumps may look fine on the outside, but they’re usually outfitted with cheaply made, low-quality blades and impellers, leading to a lot of internal shear that damages the product as it passes through the pump.”

  Carlsen & Associates started as a portable pump manufacturer for the wine industry, but now manufactures pumps for breweries, distilleries, meaderies, kombucha, soy sauce manufacturers, honey producers and various cannabis-related businesses. Their many years creating and tweaking pumps for multiple industries makes them uniquely qualified in recommending the right pump for a business’s needs.

  “We recommend a double diaphragm air pump with grounding tag for distilleries,” said Battersby. “With distilleries and high proof alcohol, you first and foremost need explosion-proof pumps. Compressed air powered pumps easily deliver the necessary amount of power for distilleries, and they’re perfectly fine for fluids, but if the distiller uses any botanicals, the pumps need to be screened off. You can safely use electrical-based pumps too, but they have to be rated explosion-proof, which sometimes makes them quite costly for what is really needed.”

  “With breweries, you’re talking about moving wort and heavier fluids with temperatures up to 210 degrees, so you’ll likely be looking at positive displacement pumps. Ours are Waukesha pumps, using winged rotors resembling ice cream scoops that spin around, scoop the optimal amount of product, and move it along without causing any crush or damage. They have capabilities of pumping as little as 30 gallons per minute up to 130 gallons a minute using one to three-inch lines.”

  Brewery systems and structures are more rigid and fixed, so the pumps tend to reflect that and perform better as a fixed system as well. Battersby told Beverage Master Magazine many brewers favor smaller centrifuge pumps that fit into these systems. In contrast, wineries will make better use of portable pumps that are on carts so they can move them around the different areas of the winery where needed.

  As far as new technology on the forefront, Battersby said hybrid pumps made by combining air and impeller pumps are currently being manufactured, but he doesn’t feel they will significantly change the industry. The real trend, according to Battersby, is what he calls “right-sizing.”

  “You can’t really get away from the tried and true technology,” says Battersby. “Business owners tend to go with whatever will give them the least amount of downtime. Many newer brewers don’t possess the type of physics background that allows them to know the best ways of moving liquids. They tend to think that more horsepower is always better, but that’s not true. It’s better to match your specific needs. So the new trend, as far as we are concerned, is right-sizing. We match the equipment up to whatever it is that you need to move.

  We educate brewers and distillers in the physics behind what they are trying to do, and why one piece of equipment is preferred over another, even if it’s not the most powerful. Additionally, we stress that the pumps are only as good as the hoses, clamps and fittings that connect to them. Right-sizing incorporates a quality pump with appropriate matching parts that are easily serviceable and repairable in the least amount of time.”

Matching Pumps To Product

  Paul Hail, CEO of Affordable Distillery Equipment, knows what reliability means in the brewing and distilling industry, so only offers quality equipment made to last a lifetime. Although based in the rural hills of the Missouri Ozarks, Affordable Distillery’s pumps are used in nearly 20% of craft spirit distilleries across the U.S. Hail recommends a few options for spirits production.

  “If you try to use a centrifugal pump with corn mash, the lifespan of that pump is probably going to be less than a year,” said Hail. “When moving corn mash, you have better options available. A double diaphragm air pump will work, but it will take a lot of air and a minimum of 1 ½  diameter connecting hoses. The pump is cheap, but the big expense—sometimes an additional $2,000-$3,000—comes with the need for a larger air compressor. A flex impeller type of pump is a great, moderately priced choice, but the impeller is a normal wear part, and depending on what type of material it’s manufactured from and the amount and type of use it receives, it could last months or only weeks. The loads it’s put through determines the wear and replacement needs. Your best choice would be a rotary load pump, but they are incredibly expensive so generally not an option for every smaller or startup distillery.”

  Hail, like Battersby, mentions the importance of safety when using a pump in the distillery. “You must remember, though, when moving high proof alcohol, you’ll need a grounding terminal on the pump to make it explosion-proof,” said Hail. “It’s not a likely scenario, but there is a minute chance that the rushing of a product while being pumped will manufacture enough static to potentially release a tiny spark. Couple that with high proof alcohol and we all know where that leads.”

  As Hail continues to run an industry-leading pump manufacturer, he told Beverage Master Magazine that it’s hard to come up with new ideas when pump technology has barely changed in generations.

  “You’ll hear about new things being tried around the industry, but when properly researched, those bright new ideas were usually already attempted by those before us. The reason that they’re not being done today is that they just didn’t work or weren’t economically feasible. Any new technology or methods would likely be groundbreaking if valid, and that’s what we are working on here at Affordable Distilling. Hopefully more about that in the future,” said Hail.

Improving On Current Equipment

  Based on their successful history with marine and industrial applications, AmpCo Pump Company in Glendale, Wisconsin, began manufacturing pumps specifically for the brewing, distilling and wine industries (https://www.ampcopumps.com).

  One chronic issue with pumps has been a tendency for the seals to leak eventually. Tony Krebs, Marketing Manager for AmpCo Pumps, said they have successfully addressed that issue in one of their most popular pumps, the CB+ Craft Brew Pump, specially designed for hot wort transfer.

  “Over time, the material being moved through the pump typically crystalizes, and that buildup will eventually cause traditional seals to leak,” said Krebs. “AmpCo’s CB+ Craft Brew Pump possesses an internal, submersed seal to promote cooling. Because it’s internally seated, any pressure increase caused by heat or flow creates an increased closing force on the seals to minimize any potential buildup. Additionally, the pump has an internal spring that acts as an agitator to reduce the solids buildup, thereby reducing crystallization on the seals. It’s an excellent choice for all sizes of breweries, but it’s an especially great match for the smaller brewpubs because on a cart, mobile and multi-functional. It can be used as a transfer pump in many areas around the facility, but it performs equally well as a clean-in-place pump. It’s not the cheapest pump you’re going to find, but when choosing a pump, it’s extremely important to be able to find certified, readily available parts and quality people to install those parts and repair your equipment. Downtime costs money, and when pumps are down, so is your brewing or distilling process.”

  AmpCo also makes pumps for the wine industry, offering their L series centrifugal pumps with the same exceptional quality, efficiency and durability as their counterparts designed for the craft breweries and distilleries.

  Krebs told Beverage Master Magazine that AmpCo is always at the forefront of pump technology, and regularly on the leading edge of trends in the craft brewing, spirits and wine industries. Krebs has recently noticed the need and increased demand for their portable hop induction units. This machine simultaneously induces dry hop pellets directly into the beer stream while recirculating the fermenter. It features AmpCo’s SBI Shear Pump and provides the brewmaster everything necessary to dry hop beer efficiently and safely within a single unit.

  “You can’t ignore the creative side of distillers, winemakers and brewmasters. They like to continuously mix flavor and ingredient profiles and provide experimental flavor combinations for signature blends, special tastings or customer trials,” says Krebs. “Blending pumps provide a better and more efficient way to get this done.”

Getting to Know Beer’s Key Ingredients: Barley growers say, “If there is no barley, then there is no beer.”

By: Cheryl Gray

Barley has been around for some 10,000 years. When this ancient grain was introduced in the United States, in New England during the 17th century, it was produced specially to quench the thirst of colonists who wanted to make beer.

  Malted barley remains the key ingredient in the world’s oldest and most consumed alcoholic beverage. Today, the market for malting barley is directly impacted by the weather and economy of the area where it grows. In the U.S., 90% of barley grows throughout the Northern Plains into the Pacific Northwest. The climate of this region is colder and arider, ideal conditions for producing the high-quality barley needed for brewing beer.

Grown Under Contract

  Virtually all U.S. malting barley is grown under contract with a brewer or maltster. Those contracts generally call for specific varieties demanded by breweries—typically two-row or six-row. Breweries determine what barley varieties they need based upon brewing techniques, cost and the desired flavor of the finished product. Many craft brewers prefer to brew beers using directly sourced ingredients and will partner with local barley growers, eventually using the “locally grown” angle in their product marketing. 

  Barley growers generally seek contracts that secure price premiums in exchange for growing a specific barley variety. Those premium prices help the grower offset the higher production costs tied to a lower-yielding crop. Developing a dedicated crop of malting barley is not without substantial risk. Bad weather and disease can destroy an otherwise profitable yield. Any product that doesn’t make the grade gets relegated to the feed market and downgraded in price, which for the grower can be half or less of the original crop value.

The Value of American-Grown Barley

  According to The Brewers Association, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming are the top five states producing barley for malting. These regions use the power of science, technology, economics and strategic planning to gain an edge in a marketplace that is increasingly global.

  The U.S. Grains Council helps track the journey of America’s barley crop from farm to glass around the world. Its latest statistics reveal that American-grown barley accounts for more than 190 million barrels of annual beer production in the U.S. alone. Foreign markets, including Mexico, are taking notice. Under NAFTA, malted barley from the U.S. enters Mexico duty-free. That is an attractive option to Mexico’s breweries, which depend upon imported malted barley because Mexico has no way to produce it independently. According to the Grains Council, Mexico purchased more than 18 million bushels of barley, worth $209 million in its most recent purchasing year.

  It is that buying potential that makes global markets attractive to the U.S. malting barley industry. Brian Sorenson, Program Director for the Northern Crop Institute of North Dakota State University, said that in addition to its research-driven programs and courses, the NCI plays a critical role in connecting barley breeders, scientists and growers with buyers and processors worldwide.

  “NCI helps to bring U.S. barley growers in touch with global markets by providing courses to educate grain buyers on how the U.S. grain handling and trading systems function,” Sorenson said. “NCI’s Grain Procurement Management for Importers Course is held each September and typically educates over 30 participants (mostly from overseas) on how to purchase high-quality grains from the U.S. and showcases the crops produced in the Northern Great Plains states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.” 

  The NCI is also a significant player in the science and research designed to help stakeholders reach what Sorenson describes as the ultimate goal: to produce optimal quality malting barley for brewing consistent, top-quality beer.

  “It is important for each of those involved to understand what the other players contend within their particular role,” said Sorenson. “Developing new barley varieties that can make it possible for farmers to grow and deliver the quality needed by the maltster profitably, and ultimately, the brewer is an extremely difficult set of tasks. Barley breeders work hard to stay ahead of the changing agronomic challenges, such as crop diseases, as well as the need for high production yield, and at the same time satisfy the quality demands of the end-users.”

  Quality control factors include color and kernel plumpness, protein content, moisture, skinned or broken kernels, and sprout damage.

Breeding Strong Varietals

  Science is the universal language in barley breeding, and Dr. Paul Schwarz is among the leaders in research, development and breeding applications for the malted barley industry. He is a professor at NDSU’s Department of Plant Sciences, specializing in the area of malting barley quality. NDSU has a barley breeding program, as do other land grant universities in barley producing states. 

  Dr. Schwarz told Beverage Master Magazine that science has a pivotal role in breeding new varieties of malting barley as well as sustaining the successes of current ones. 

  “Breeding is the application of several branches of science including biology, genetics-genomics, biochemistry and statistics,” said Schwarz. “Barley breeding has closely followed developments in science and often uses the newest tools. As an example, in the past, breeders would make a cross and then have to screen thousands of progeny in the field or lab to select the most desirable. Today, with advances in genomics, they can identify genes of importance and use DNA techniques to screen lines that have desired traits.”   

  Schwarz also stresses that the breeding process combines the expertise of scientists across multiple fields. “When we think breeding, we think breeder,” he said. “However, the development of new varieties is a team effort. In the past, it has involved the breeder/geneticist, an agronomist, a plant pathologist, and maybe an end product specialist (cereal chemist) to evaluate malting quality. Today, this list has expanded to include a molecular biologist and often a bio-informaticist

[to handle the large amounts of data gathered]


Fusarium Head Blight

  One of the biggest threats to a barley crop that NDSU and other land-grant schools try to combat on behalf of barley growers is fusarium head blight, also known as “head scab.” This disease infects the head of the crops, reducing grain yield and impacting the producer’s bottom line. While FHB is more prevalent in humid, wetter climates such as the eastern U.S., in recent years, changing weather patterns have forced barley growers as far as the Northern Plains to begin routinely safeguarding their crops using fungicides. Malting companies across the country sample and grade every truckload of barley coming into receiving stations, regularly deploying stringent and frequent testing for FHB and its accompanying mycotoxin contamination. 

  There are assessment tools that can predict weather patterns and other factors in any region of the U.S. where FHB is likely to develop. FHB forums are held around the country, including those spearheaded by the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. This group also coordinates research projects aimed at combining current data with new exploratory channels designed to develop tools and strategies to reduce FHB and mycotoxin contamination. The research benefits barley producers, malting companies, and the breweries that use malted barley.

Advocating for Growers

  Such potential risks for barley growers are among the subjects on the agenda of the National Barley Growers Association, which advocates for public policy on behalf of its members. Dale Thorenson, a former North Dakota farmer, is an agricultural lobbyist with Gordley Associates and an officer in the National Barley Growers Association.

  “NBGA has worked to try to keep farm policy equitable between crops so that the market price determines what crops – including barley – are grown, rather than farm policy,” Thorenson told Beverage Master Magazine. “This includes having a viable federal crop insurance policy available for barley including the malt barley endorsement, which provides coverage based on the malt price rather than the underlying feed value for barley. It’s also important for barley growers and the malt and beer industry that adequate funding is appropriated every year for the wheat and barley scab initiative, so that research continues on methods to combat fusarium head blight. Finally, NBGA has joined with the malt and beer industry to support equitable excise tax rates for beer, and the coalition was successful in getting the Craft Beer Modernization & Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. That reform expires at the end of 2019, and we are still working at getting this legislation extended into future years.”

Seeking Satisfaction

  Public policy, scientific applications and emerging markets create a unique mix for malting barley growers, whose success is measured by consistently producing successful crops that satisfy maltsters and breweries who, in turn, seek to satisfy the tastes of beer consumers.

Brewery Air Compression Systems: Why Quality Matters

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Compressed air systems are often misunderstood in the brewing industry and undervalued as a long-term investment; however, compressed air is an essential part of the brewing process, and an efficient system is integral. Choosing the best pneumatic system for brewery operations requires understanding the uses of compressed air in a brewery, the types of compressors available, and the size, focus and other needs of the brewery.

Brewery Uses for Compressed Air

  Although every brewery operates differently, there are a few common uses for air compressors that are very important to the brewing process. Compressed air is used as a means to get yeast cultures enough oxygen during fermentation. Brewers also use compressors to aerate wort and water, and to transport solids, such as spent grains, whole malt, and sugar.

  During bottling, compressed air can move beer from the conditioning tank to the bottle, as well as keep lines clean and free of water. It is used during canning and clarifying to remove solids and create a cleaner product, and controls valves and actuators in automated packaging and labeling processes. Some maintenance and sanitation also require compressed air, powering air tools and pressure washers.

Types of Air Compressors for Breweries

  There are two primary types of air compressors used by modern breweries. The first is the pressure-lubricated reciprocating or piston air compressor. These compressors use a piston and cylinder driven by a crankshaft to compress air and feature either a single-stage or double-stage operation. Single-stage piston air compressors bring air in with a single-piston stroke that’s about 120 PSI.

  Meanwhile, double-stage compressors compress air up to about 175 PSI with an additional compression step through a second piston. These compressors are often used for low-pressure tasks, such as washing kegs.

  The second type of brewery air compressor is a lubricated rotary screw compressor. The rotary screws in these compressors utilize a positive displacement system and a hydraulic seal to transfer energy between rotors. The screw design and rotation forces air to move through the compressor. These types of compressors are better suited for high-pressure tanks and are useful for bottling and other brewery tasks.

  When shopping for compressors, brewers can choose between oil-lubricated compressors and oil-free air compressors, depending on their needs. Lubricated compressors are typically equipped with filtering systems to ensure that contaminants stay out of beer.

  As an alternative to the piston compressor for brewery applications, some brewers use oil-free scroll air compressors for continuous clean air and quiet operation. These machines can be installed anywhere due to the low noise levels and no pressure drop-offs.

Brewery Size Matters

  Michael Camber, Marketing Services Manager for Kaeser Compressors, Inc., told Beverage Master Magazine that the full range of craft breweries’ production levels would affect their pneumatic equipment needs.

  “Larger brewers tend to have a broader variety of pneumatic devices, as well as more of them,” Camber said. “Our craft brewers typically purchase rotary screw compressors from 5-50 hp, though most craft brewers are in the 5-25 hp range. These are most often bought as part of a system that includes tanks, drains, dryers, and filters. These are vital to cleaning up the air to protect brewers’ expensive equipment. Many choose AIRTOWERs and AIRCENTERs, which are complete compressed air stations with storage tanks and air treatment components built into a space and time-saving package.”

  In addition to the high-quality air they provide, Camber said that these compressors are extremely reliable and energy-efficient.

“These machines are designed for demanding manufacturing and processing applications and can run 24/7 if needed,” he said. “A bonus is that the packages are quiet, which is especially important if people will be working near the compressor or the brewery has a public taproom on-premises.”

Compressors Used by Breweries

  Due to their varying needs, no two breweries use their air compression systems the same. The market also provides brewers with plenty of manufacturers so that they can find their perfect pneumatic fit.

  Offering year-round, seasonal, and unique one-off beers, D9 Brewing Company has been on the local craft beer scene in Cornelius, North Carolina since 2014. Andrew Durstewitz, CEO and founder of D9 Brewing, told Beverage Master Magazine, “We use an Ingersoll Rand compressor for all pneumatic controls in the brewhouse, packaging, and aeration of wort.” (Photo on Right)

  Peter Licht, brewmaster for Hermitage Brewing Company in San Jose, California, said he uses rotary screw compressors with integrated dryer for all of his brewery’s compressed air needs. Hermitage Brewing Company is a big part of the growing craft beer scene in San Jose and offers a pubic tasting room, growler fills, keg orders, and brewery tours.

  Meanwhile, Drew Yeager, Director of Brewery Operations for Fat Bottom Brewing in Nashville, Tennessee said his brewery uses an Atlas Copco SF22+ FF Oil-free air compressor.

  “This is used to provide oil-free, dry air to our production equipment including the chain-vey conveyor system, centrifuge, keg washer, canning line, PakTech applicator, CIP system, and central foaming system for floor cleaning,” Yeager said.

  Established in 2012 as East Nashville’s first brewery, Fat Bottom Brewing brews a wide variety of beers inspired by styles all around the world.

Brewery Compressor Considerations

  For brewers in the market for an air compressor, many questions should be raised internally and with manufacturers. One important consideration is to understand the size of air compressor the brewery needs to not burn out and put operations at a stand-still. Brewers should also take into account where to physically place the compressor in the brewery to reduce noise and potential damage to brewing equipment. 

  Some brewers have made the switch from oil-based air compressors to oil-free versions. Oil-free air tends to be better for brewing because oil can kill yeast, flatten a frothy head, present safety hazards, and reduce purity.

  Camber of Kaeser Compressors defined and described what he considers the six most important factors a brewery should consider when purchasing an air compression system.

1.   Reliability – If the operation has mission-critical equipment with pneumatics, you want something well-built so you don’t have downtime.

2.   Energy efficiency – Depending on local utility rates, size of machine (hp), and the running hours, energy can be a significant cost. Efficiency varies widely between compressors.

3.   Operating temperature – This impacts how easy or hard it will be to remove moisture from the compressed air. The lower the operating temperature, the easier it will be to prevent moisture from affecting equipment and product.

4.   High oil carryover – the carryover rate also impacts air quality and can be a real problem with some compressors. The lower it is, the better for both product quality and equipment reliability.

5.   Low vibration – over time, vibration will loosen internal piping and electrical connections, causing downtime. Look for compressors that run smoothly and have good vibration isolators.

6.   Noise – if people will be working near the compressor, low noise is important for morale, health, and safety.

  Durstewitz of D9 Brewing said the most important considerations for his brewery concerning air compressors are reliability and sanitation. Licht of Heritage Brewing said air quality, reliability, and sound are the top things they keep in mind when looking at air compressors.

  At Fat Bottom Brewing, Yeager said oil-free and dry air are the most important considerations for his brewery’s air compressor decisions. Other factors he said are “planning for SCF required day one and with a growth plan for sizing,” as well as the “noise level for employee comfort and OSHA compliance.”

Choosing the Right Brewery Air Compressor

  There is no one-size-fits-all solution for brewery air compressors because every brewery’s compressed air needs are unique. To get started, talk to experts at air compressor companies that serve breweries as a primary market, as well as other craft brewers about what systems work well for them.

  Durstewitz of D9 Brewing recommends not winging it when choosing the size of your air compressor. “Make sure to accurately calculate your CFMs and pressure requirements. If you run a compressor too hard it’ll just burn out,” he said.

  Heritage Brewing Company’s Licht said breweries should “plan for future air needs, make sure the air quality is appropriate for the use, and do not install a noisy compressor in work areas.” 

  Fat Bottom Brewery’s Yeager stands behind oil-free. “Bite the bullet and purchase the right oil-free, dry air compressor. You will save the difference in money with less maintenance on brewery equipment and less downtime in production.”

  Finally, Camber of Kaeser Compressors warns about going too big. “Determine what size and type you need based on actual air demand, duty cycle, and how mission-critical air is to your brewery,” he said. “You want a reliable supply at a stable pressure, but you don’t want to oversize compressors. Oversizing increases your purchase costs, your energy costs, and your maintenance costs.”

The Golden Age of Hops and Beer: The Fine Art of Choosing a Hop

By: Robin Dohrn- Simpson

Choosing the right hops can be a complicated task. Some breweries choose hops based on past agreements – they have long-standing relationships with growers they feel confident will provide what they need, at the highest quality. Some search out their hops based on geography, based on knowledge of which plant grows better in Washington than in Oregon or Idaho. Some experiment with hops growers who are creating new varieties and bringing them to market. Others just want a Citra, or an Alpha, or a Cascade, and make a spot purchase. Whichever path they choose, what truly matters is the quality of the hop and the right varietal for the beer.

Purchasing Based on Terroir

  Thomas Bleigh, Innovation Brewmaster at Craft Brew Alliance’s Ph Experiment in Oregon, chooses his hops based on the terroir.

  “While I don’t have any empirical evidence to support this, I, historically, have had a preference for Oregon-grown vs. Washington-grown Cascade hops. Much of it was the most likely narrative for the beer that we produced, but we did run trials on Cascade in our flagship single-hop Cascade Ale, and we found a preference in one supplier,” Bleigh said. “Much of this would have been tied to a qualitative raw source, but we also believed that processing played a role in the character of the hop.”

  Despite Bleigh’s preference for Oregon-grown, the CBA doesn’t limit themselves to hops from one state over another, instead, focusing on locally sourced ingredients. This is undoubtedly the case at their Redhook brewpub in Seattle.

  “Currently, our Redhook BrewLab is working on a series called Washington Native that focuses on Washington sourced malts and salmon-safe sourced Washington hops,” said Bleigh. “That project is an interesting example of trying to tease our nuance based on regional distinction. One of the challenges is that while Pacific Northwest breweries are hyper-aware and engaged in local sourcing, we are also mindful that these hops service the majority of domestic craft.”

  Hop varietals, just like any plant, thrive in some regions over others. At the same time, varietals that thrive in any environment can develop characteristics based on the soil and weather of the area where they grow. Terroir is often spoken of regarding winegrapes but can also be applied to other crops, particularly those involved in the creation of alcoholic beverages.

  “Yakima, given its dry climate, is a much better growing region for higher alpha hop varieties and Nuevo IPA hop varieties. These proprietary hops (such as Citra, Mosaic, Azacca) all fare better in Washington than they do in Oregon. Idaho presents an interesting domestic terroir character, and they have now surpassed Oregon for hops produced and are becoming more of a geographic force in the industry,” Bleigh said.

  Larry Sidor, Co-Founder, Master Brewer and CEO at Crux Fermentation Project in Bend Oregon, knows hops and appreciates why different regions and growers yield a range of characteristics.

  “Terroir, climate conditions during kilning, as well as processing methods post field harvest make all the difference. When hops are dried in Oregon the ambient temperatures are lower than Washington, but the humidity is higher, yielding significant differences. Methods of preserving the hops differ quite widely and can contribute different nuances. An example is “farmer bales” that are dried, packed loosely, and then stored in barns. Books can and have been written about all the differences. The resulting beer is also different,” Sidor said.

  Sidor does have a preference, however. “Being a native Oregonian, my belief and preference is that Willamette Valley grown hops are the best in the world. I may be a bit biased, I’ve brewed with hops from every major hop growing region in the world, so that should count for something,”

  Christian DeBenedetti of Wolves and People Brewery in Newberg, Oregon, feels that the amount of sensory and flavor research and description in the industry is at an all-time high. His brewery wants growers with proven track records and a full grasp on their fields and crops.

  “Hops are almost like wine varietals at this point. There are so many interesting old and new varieties being cultivated with real care, and we definitely look to favored growers who can communicate accurately about their hops and lots. They vary by year and even by the lot, because of variations in soil and site. So we’re looking for a combination of characteristics we can bring forward in a well-made beer,” DeBenedetti said. “Soil chemistry and farming techniques both affect hop flavor. Take Cascade, for example, a classic aroma hop. In Oregon and Washington, it tends to grapefruit and pine. In New Zealand, which is free of the sort of pests that plague other growing regions, it’s often more melon-like. This is due to the soil it’s grown in. This a perfect reflection of terroir in beer.”

Which Comes First, the Hops or the Brew?

  Brewers vary in their approach to creating a beer recipe. Sometimes, an idea for a new brew will come to them, and they will search out the ingredients to make it. Other times, it’s the ingredients themselves that inspire a recipe.

  At Crux Fermentation Project, Sidor prefers experimenting with hops and letting them do the talking. “I don’t brew a beer until I’ve acquired the materials to brew it,” he said. “Once they are acquired, I then look for the best way to utilize them in a formulation. Crux tends to bring in a dozen or so new hops every year with the intent of experimenting with them using this approach. I don’t have an idea about a brew when I purchase a hop. I typically brew a single-hop brew to get a feel for the hop. The result is usually a very one-dimensional beer that isn’t very interesting. This doesn’t mean the hop is bad; it means that other hops are needed in the brew to make it shine.

  A good example of this is the Strata hop. By itself, it is very one dimensional, when in combination with other hops, it’s a rock star. One hop that seems to shine all by itself is the Sabro hop. Have only brewed one brew so far, but as a single hop brew, the Sabro delivered a very layered and interesting beer. In short, you need to let the hop tell you what beers it’s going to shine in.”

  Wolves and People Brewery has built beers around individual hops. “There are new aroma varieties that play up fruity, tropical aromas like passionfruit, lychee, coconut and mango. We want those traits to be front and center, so we build a recipe almost like a stage to pop those bright, high-tone aromas to the fore. Sometimes we’re doing the complete opposite. We want a beer that has spice character, some old-world bitterness and aroma, then we go looking for those varieties and use what’s freshest,” DeBenedetti said.

Experimental Hops

  Joe Catron, “Hoperations” Manager at Yakima Chief Ranches, feels right now is the Golden Age of hops and beer. Three hop farming families created Yakima Chief with the sole purpose of creating new world-class hops varieties and bringing them to market. The process of creating a new hop takes up to a decade and can cost upwards of a million dollars from cross-pollination, to market research, to placement in the marketplace. The ranch releases one new hop approximately every year.

  “We make several crosses each year and generally result in 30-50,000 seedlings in any given year,” Catron told Beverage Master Magazine. “In my seven years working here we have released five varieties: four flavoring and aroma for the American scene and one super alpha hop for bittering for the big macro brewers.”

  Yakima Chief has experienced immense growth over the years. When Catron started in 2013, there were three owner-growers and 900 acres planted. As of 2019, there are now 45 farms in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, with 15,000 acres managed.

  The ranch applies a “fail fast” mentality. They run a hop through the gamut, and if it doesn’t check off all the boxes, it goes to the scrap heap. However, they did have a quasi-flop that eventually became a success.

  “The Simco hop was released 20 years ago as a dual purpose hop alpha and aroma. We couldn’t give it away. Some said it was too pungent, punchy and dank. We were going to tear down the bines, but Russian River Brewing found it and liked it, and it became a champion in the beer called Pliny the Elder. Vinny, the head brewer is a cult hero amongst brewers. He helped to save the variety, and now there are 3,000 acres of this hop planted. It was definitely before it’s time and needed a new audience,” Catron said.

  Crux Fermentation’s Sidor has seen experimentation change the hops market throughout his career, due to the increase in craft brewing and the demand for the next big thing.

  “When I started brewing, only Cluster and Fuggle were available. You could bring in hops from Europe, but most were at a state of oxidation higher than acceptable,” he said. “My concern now is, can the hop breeder keep up with the customer demand for ‘what’s new?’ Remember that Cascade was revolutionary in the 1970s, Citra 40 years later, Galaxy 5 years after that. The thing that has accelerated hop breeding is the customer demand, the technical tools now available to the hop researcher, and the money available to do the research. My only concern is that not enough money is being spent on breeding public varieties by the USDA.” 

  Craft Brew Alliance’s pH Experiment specializes in trying new things, and Bleigh enjoys testing hop varieties. “We are heavily invested in trialing new hop varieties and working with the Hop Research Council to explore new varietals and to support public breeding of hops. Our initial explorations have shaped our early pioneering interest in hops like Citra and Galaxy, which have very specific tropical hop characters that are signature hops in some of our brands,” he said.

  Hops play an essential role in the craft beer industry, helping create distinct brews with complimentary varietal combinations and terroir. With a high demand for more hops and hops growers, and places like Yakima Chief Ranch creating new cross breeds nearly every year, the U.S. hops industry can only continue to bloom.

“American hops is the world leader right now. It’s a special time to be alive,” Catron said.

A Guide to Some of the Best Canadian Beer Fests

By: Briana Tomkinson

The popularity of craft beer in Canada has fueled the growth of beer festivals across the country. Some, like Craft Beer Week events in Vancouver and Ontario, are primarily dedicated to showcasing local brews, while other festivals, like Montreal’s Mondial de la bière, are opportunities for beer-lovers to explore new tastes from across Canada and around the world.

Mondial de la bière

  At the 26th annual Mondial de la bière, held in May 2019, an estimated 80,000 visitors flowed through the kiosks at Windsor Station in downtown Montreal. Visitors were keen to sample some of the 450 beers, ciders, meads and spirits from at least 90 craft beverage producers—including 35 from Quebec.

  While the included the usual branded brewery kiosks, it also featured the Petit Pub where visitors could try a selection of beer varieties from eight countries: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the U.S., Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Although admission was free, visitors could buy coupons for two- or four-ounce samples, ranging in price from $2 to $8 CAD.

  Quebec distilleries were a notable presence at the event, offering many creative tastes like les Subversif’s maple gin, produced in a former church in Sorel-Tracy; and Franklin-based Sivo’s rhubarb liqueur. Sivo was the first in Quebec to create a single-malt whisky in 2017 and is now known for its complex herbal liqueurs as well. Quebec’s first locally produced bitter Italian-style apératif, Amermelade, by Montreal’s Les Spiritueux Iberville was also available for sampling, along with the company’s Amernoir, a bitter amaro-style digestif with notes of coffee, cocoa, sarsaparilla, mint and orange.

  The event featured Quebec breweries proudly touting their sour beers. La Souche’s Canadian Brewing Award-winning Limoilou Beach beer stood out, in particular. The brew incorporates locally sourced ingredients unique to the northern Boréal forest, such as tart wild berries, Labrador tea and pine tips.

  The Mondial de la bière was founded in Montreal in 1994, and has become one of America’s most important international beer festivals. In addition to the original Montreal event, there are now three other Mondial de la bière festivals organized around the world, including one in Europe (mondialdelabiereparis.com), and two in Brazil. The events in France and Sao Paulo took place in late May and early June, and the seventh edition of the Rio de Janeiro Mondial de la bière (mondialdelabiererio.com/en/) is September 4-8, 2019.

Just wait, there’s more…

  If you missed out on the Mondial de la bière, don’t fret—there are similar events held across Canada throughout the year. Here are some of the most notable.

  Festibière (festibiere.ca), held in Gatineau in June and February, is another Quebec beer festival. The June festival drew more than 30,000 people over three days and featured over 300 beers from more than 30 Quebec breweries. The winter edition in February is more intimate, drawing closer to 10,000 people.

  In July, the Toronto Festival of Beer (https://beerfestival.ca/) pairs craft beverages with food and music. This year’s headliners include Ashanti and Ja Rule. The event will feature samples of over 400 beers from more than 90 brewers.

  Brewfest (http://brewfest.ca/) takes place in Ottawa in February and Toronto in March. The February event coincides with Ottawa’s annual Winterlude festival, a significant tourist draw at the famously frigid time of year. The Toronto event features over 150 beers from breweries in Quebec and Ontario, as well as gourmet eats from popular local food trucks.

  Alberta Beer Festivals (albertabeerfestivals.com) organizes six events throughout the year in Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and Jasper. Their Calgary International Beerfest, home to the Canadian International Beer Awards, is one of Canada’s largest beer festivals. The beer fest, held annually in May, features over 700 beers from more than 200 breweries. Another of their events, the Jasper Beer & Barley Summit, held in February, is a two-day mountain retreat at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, featuring food and beer pairings and seminars from top brewers, distillers and other industry leaders.

  In British Columbia, Vancouver Craft Beer Week (vancouvercraftbeerweek.com) is the event to watch. Held in late May and early June, it’s a 10-day party celebrating the city’s thriving craft beer scene, including a two-day festival at the PNE Fairgrounds in June, as well as events at breweries, restaurants and bars throughout the city. This year’s events included beer bike tours, tap takeovers, special beer pairing menus at local restaurants, and a three-hour sunset cruise featuring craft beer, snacks and a DJ.

  Another notable summer festival in B.C. is Farmhouse Fest (farmhousefest.com), held in July at the University of British Columbia’s 24-hectare model farm. Farmhouse Fest is an ode to farmhouse-style beers and ciders—the funky, fruity, peppery, tart, dry and sour. Participating breweries include local breweries as well as specialty producers from throughout Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Chile and Australia.

  August in the Maritimes brings the Seaport Cider & Beer Festival (seaportbeerfest.com) to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The two-day event features over 300 beverages from producers in 20 countries. This year they’ve added a new feature: the Maine Beer Box, a pop-up taproom in a shipping container featuring 78 craft beer taps from breweries in Maine.

  Another major East Coast beer fest is New Brunswick’s Fredericton Craft Beer Festival (http://frederictoncraftbeerfestival.com/) in March, which features over 200 varieties of beer, cider and mead.

  In remote Whitehorse, the Yukon Beer Festival (yukonbeerfestival.com) in October brings a taste of craft beer and ciders from around North America to delight beer fans in the Great White North. Last year’s event featured over 100 different brews.

  Some larger craft producers, like Beau’s Brewing in tiny Vankleek Hill, Ontario, have created their own marquee events. Beau’s Oktoberfest (beausoktoberfest.ca) has become a significant fall music and beer celebration, featuring not only Beau’s brews but also a mini-beer festival with over 50 rare or exclusive beers from Canadian craft breweries. The New Pornographers and Shad headline the September festival, along with Jenn Grant, Neon Dreams, Birds of Bellwoods, Caravane, John Jacob Magistery, and What If Elephants. The 2018 event drew over 17,000 people, and since its launch 10 years ago, has raised approximately $711,000 for area charities. 

  The beauty of beer festivals is the opportunity for brands to make a personal connection with beer fans, tell their story, and above all, to entice more people to taste the unique product they have to offer.

Forward-thinking Marketing Is About Looking Back

By: Jim McCune

HefeWheaties is a new beer from Fulton, which collaborated on the brew with another Minneapolis company, General Mills.

Many beer brands have recognized the value of “nostalgia marketing” by tapping into our fondest childhood memories to sell more.

But What is Nostalgia?

  It’s a human emotion defined as “a sentimental longing, or affection for the past”.

  As we grow older, we develop fond memories of our younger days. From the food, candy, and ice cream we ate, the events we attended, the music we listened to, the video games we played, the clothes and sneakers we wore, to the TV shows we watched. 

  Your experiences from your past, form your personality and identity today.

  Scientific research has proven that nostalgia is a powerful feeling that provides a pleasant effect to both mind and body, and the natural phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the “warm and fuzzies”.

  It seems the more we move into an age of technology and innovation, the more we enjoy revisiting a simpler past and the joyous memories that come with it.

  Nostalgia can be activated at any given moment by any of our senses. A certain sound, scent, or color can trigger a nostalgic episode. Nostalgia can appear as a flashback, a vivid memory, or a wave of seemingly out-of-place emotions.

  One of the reasons we love Netflix TV show “Stranger Things” is because of our desire to look back fondly on our own formative years. This show really nailed the time period of the eighties and allows viewers to relive certain aspects of their past that they enjoyed.

  Nostalgia triggers emotion, and emotion activates purchase. This is why nostalgia is smart and effective marketing tactic.

  Breakfast cereals, vinyl records, candy bars, gaming systems, ice cream cake, and literally everything in between. Brands are engaging beer drinkers by tapping into their positive memories from decades past in fun, innovative new ways.

  Retro tactics have found their way into most marketing channels. Throwback Thursdays hashtag across social media, Facebook’s “On This Day”, and apps like Timehop now account for hundreds of millions of new photos linked to personal memories.

  In a series of experiments conducted by the Journal of Consumer Science, they found that consumers who thought about “the good old days” were more willing to spend money. In contrast, less likely to spend bucks when thinking about “the present or future”.

  The research study examined how nostalgia evoked feelings of connectedness and community due to childhood memories being linked to friends, family, and a sense of trust.

  Other interesting findings from the study is that nostalgia is experienced at least three times a week by persons of all ages, and across all cultures.

  It was also determined that most persons see their nostalgic event “through rose-colored glasses,” meaning they were revising history in their favor.

  Additionally, and most interesting, persons who were exposed to extreme heat or cold found relief and comfort from these adverse states when experiencing the joy of nostalgia.

  The emotional component of your brain is far more advanced than the logical side.

  80% of your decision-making derives from emotion rather than logic. This is why most consumers make their purchase decision at the beer shelf based on what they see and feel.

  But, 64% of this group admitted they would change their mind at the last second if “something else better” caught their eye.

  Smart brands are successfully using the timeless marketing strategy to attract new drinkers by elicit the stopping power and emotion in their branding. The results have been extraordinary with the GenX and Millennial aged groups.

  If you peruse the shelves of your local beer distributor, you’ll quickly see how evident, and brilliantly, nostalgic marketing is being employed by many beer brands.

  Why does nostalgia resonate so well with these marketing segments?

  Mainly because childhood for them during the 70s, 80s, and 90s (commercially-speaking) was all about them, and chock full of awesome. So, looking back on these days, there’s bound to be a lot of great memories.

  Children born mid–1960s to 1970s were considered the first generation of children to be directly advertised to. They would be known as “Generation X” and marketers discovered that this segment was impossible to define.

  Advertisers eventually discovered that although GenX children were not the purchaser, they could use them as “parental influencers”.

  If they could get a kid super excited about their product, they would eventually get to the mum. Many parents reported being pestered by their children for products they saw on television. This new marketing tactic was termed “pester power”.

  The result was an onslaught of exciting new youth products advertised directly to kids during their Saturday morning cartoons, movies, comic books, video games, and beyond.

  The pester era was fueled by a major surge in birthrates during the 80s and 90s that ushered in the new marketing segment, known as “Generation Y” aka Millennials.

  Studies at the time estimated children spent an average of 28 hours per week watching TV and playing video games which exposed them to approximately 20,000 ads a year.

  During these 3 decades the youth market became expansive and accelerated economic growth around the globe to the tune of $250 billion today.

  Millennials were also a big part of the craft beer boom. Over the past eight years, as this age group reached legal drinking age of 21, the craft brewing industry experienced its most significant growth.

  Millennials were labeled the “Peter Pan Generation” due to their tendency to delay “Adulting” for longer than any generation prior.

  So, it’s no wonder, if a beer brand could leverage favorable memories from our childhood and evoke these warm–fuzzy feelings that allow us to suspend our disbelief for a few moments, that we’re actually adults … you’ve likely made the sale already.

  You’ll also forge a meaningful connection with this consumer at an extremely–emotional level that results in brand loyalty (a consumer quality that hardly exists in beer today).

  An alcohol watchdog group recently reported that consumer complaints were stacking-up. As increasing numbers of beer brands rollout nostalgia in their marketing, more cases are being upheld because their label “appears to be aimed at kids” or “encourages immoderate consumption.”

  It’s been urged that breweries, marketers, and designers tread more carefully with the design of their retro packaging that depicts candy, toys, and cartoons. Ensuring the alcoholic nature of their beverage is communicated clearly, and when appealing to one’s inner child, not going too far to inadvertently appeal to a child.

  Check out these 5 beer brands that did great jobs using nostalgic marketing:

1.  Captain Lawrence Brewing Company of New York collaborated with Carvel Ice Cream to make “Fudgie the Beer” a 6.0% ABV beer brewed with Carvel signature chocolate crunchies, fudge and ice cream from their famous cake. Fudgie the Beer has smooth creamy cocoa notes with a roasted crunchies finish. (https://fudgiethebeer.com)

      This innovative concept worked so well, Captain Lawrence Brewing extended the line with Cookie O’Puss St. Patrick’s Day Beer, and Cookie Puss Birthday beer.

2.  Virginia-based brewing company Smartmouth is releasing a “magically delicious” IPA with all the warm and fuzzies. “Saturday Morning” is a throwback to the early mornings in front of the TV watching cartoons in your pajamas eating your favorite cereal. Smartmouth brewed with Lucky Charms-inspired marshmallows. (https://smartmouthbrewing.com/beers)

3.  450 North Brewing Co. of Indiana is pushing the envelope with an extensive line of mouth-watering retro packaging. Peanut butter cups, ice slushes, fruity and cocoa pebbles, firecrackers, French toast sticks, rocket popsicles, marshmallows, Nintendo games, tacos, and anything else you loved as a kid is represented. (https://www.instagram.com/450northbrewing)

4.  Two of America’s iconic beverage brands, Harpoon Brewery and Dunkin’ of Massachusetts collaborated on a limited-edition 6% ABV Coffee Porter. The co-brew combines the taste of Dunkin’s Espresso Blend Coffee with Harpoon’s famous craft beer for a balanced and smooth brew offering robust and roasty notes. (https://www.harpoonbrewery.com/beer/dunkin-coffee-porter)

      Harpoon and Dunkin’ just released a bright, summery follow-up brew with “Dunkin’ Summer Coffee Pale Ale” at 5% ABV.

5.  California’s Altamont Beer Works has an extensive line of cool–looking brews. They left no childhood stone unturned with their heady, and retro plays. Catty Shack, My Little Pony, Grand Theft Auto, NKOTB, Crunch Berry Cereal, to The Dude. (https://altamontbeerworks.com/1/beers)

  Nostalgia is a positive emotion. It’s more than a passive flashback to our yesteryear, it has strong implications of our future. It temporarily alleviates discomfort of our present and provides much needed motivation to head into our future.

  Like any trend that’s rediscovered and overused, nostalgia marketing will eventually be met with skepticism and quietly fade away, only to return again when today is tomorrow.

  Jim McCune is director of the Craft Beverage Division of Melville-based EGC Group.

Reach him at …


(516) 935-4944

Burning Questions From the Craft Brewers Conference (Part 2)

By: Jack McCraine – Firm Director, Baker Tilly

Continuing with part two of our Q&A from the Craft Brewers Conference from Denver, with additional follow-up questions to our panel of experts. It was clear that times are tough and brewers are feeling the pressure from every aspect of their business. Innovation and disruptive solutions to engage consumers and capture retailer interest were top of mind during our discussions.

  Consumers are using their disposable income on more than just beer, with consumption patterns and drinking occasions changing constantly. Generation Y and Z are entertaining spirits, RTD’s and wine as well as new and emerging industries in seltzer and cannabis (medical and recreational). Minimum wage pressures are challenging employee recruitment and retention, forcing pressure on engagement and culture. Virtual distributor models and companies like Amazon Prime are making distributors rethink and retool their sales and service strategies. 

  Diving deeper into your business plan and implementing a detailed strategy to scale your business to be more effective and efficient is a must do for brewers who want to enjoy continued success in the future. Here are some additional questions from our audience and answers from our Baker Tilly team of subject matter experts:

  Question: There’s a lot of data available and I don’t always have time to utilize it. How can I better use my data to run my brewery?

  Answer: Knowing what to track and having a process to capture and interpret the data is 1/3rd of the challenge. Another 1/3rd is knowing strategies and tactics to deploy that will correct or accelerate performance. The final 1/3rd is sharing the information beyond ownership and Sr. Management to really get your team moving in the right direction. At a minimum, record your own historic information to allow for benchmarking and variable pay opportunities that can be used to incentivize and motivate team members to accelerate performance. Here are a few good reports/charts to run:


•   Pareto charts: They help identify the most frequent factor that you can count or categorize. Distributors, brands, SKU’s, reps, etc. These reports can be created at any level and visualize what’s helping or hurting the business. Brewery reps should spend half their time calling on these accounts.

•   Rate of sale: Measures how quickly volume is moving through a given account. This is very important to improve and an indicator of brand health.

•   Simple distribution: Number of buying accounts divided by total account base will show penetration of a given brand, SKU, etc. in a given territory.

•   Weekly time series (current and previous year): This can help identify significant events from previous years and allow you to prepare for them as they come back around in the current year.


•    Packaging efficiency such as yield target on loss: This is deeper look at breakage, low-fills and mislabels against a target/goal.

•    Yield target on loss: Hitting yield targets in total barrels filtered (by style). This shows tank utilization vs your target.

•    Reduce controllable production cost per BBL (by style, etc.): Your P&L should capture controllable COGS compared to last year.


•   Gross profit trend lines before allocated costs: The overall percentage is important, yes, but the trend line is most important in this view. The reason you want to view prior to allocated overhead is to measure your real costs including labor. Utilization of your production facility will affect cost per BBL with allocated or overhead costs imbedded. This will allow you to forecast new brand costs, pricing and profitability.

•   Labor costs: Labor should be tracked not only to real production volume on a cost/BBL, but also as it relates to sales, overhead and management. This should trend down as your overall volume grows and efficiency improves.

•   Brewhouse and tank utilization: For obvious reasons, you need to set baselines for each of these and track overall utilization. It will allow the long-term forecasting of sales, capex planning and cash flow management.

  Question: When measuring break-evens (ROI), what is acceptable? How do I measure success? How many months/years?

  Answer: It depends. A loss isn’t a bad thing if your intention wasn’t profit but rather impressions. Creating a detailed business plan by department is the first step in understanding ROI’s. Each department should have KPI’s established that tie into the achievement of the plan/budget. Agreed upon actions and required resources should be identified, tracked and measured to achieve the KPI’s. Frequency of measure really depends upon what you are tracking. From a production standpoint, it could be by brew, by monthly/quarterly budget, etc., sales by month or distribution by quarter. These are good measures, but recouping profit only tells part of the story.

  Breakeven analysis is a great way to understand what is at stake or what you need to get back your investment. A standard percentage return is not always the best approach, but can be a good way to begin the discussion. There will be some things you can and should make more or less on depending upon the intent of the offering. You can put a breakeven on manpower, brands/SKUs, special events, etc., but all shouldn’t be the same ROI.

  From a timeframe standpoint, it would vary. People and equipment tend to have longer tails with ROI so those could scale quarters to years. Products and special event breakeven could be achieved overnight. It’s best to categorize the opportunity, apply a timeframe and capture it with a tracking/measuring system for future benchmarking.

  Question: How do you balance the setting of aggressive goals vs. selling correctly to the right accounts?

  Answer: Aggressive but realistic goals are great for any organization’s sales team as long as you have the following clearly outlined:

•    Variable pay: Compensation over the target so your team doesn’t stop selling after the objective was achieved in the 3rd week of the month. A threshold also needs to be set so you aren’t paying for easy layups too. 80% of achievement before 40% of payout is realized, or something of that nature. 

•    Standards: What does execution look like at retail? How many cases actually qualifies for a legitimate display? Is it the same for cans and bottles? Should there be a price on it? Pre-printed or handwritten? There are a number of things that beg to be defined. Salespeople want targets so they can be marksmen with their achievements of the objectives. You get what you ask for, so be specific in your standards with a document comprised of pictures and words.

•    Tools: Such as a POCM (point of connection material), account level data, profit calculator and a toolbox/kit with protocols for inventory replenishment:

           1)  POCM example:

•   11 x 17 accordion folder or box which includes the following:

A) Case cards and posters

     1)  Brand specific

     2)  PTC specific (all available pre-printed PTCs)

B) Sell sheets for all brands (core, seasonal, etc.)

C) Brand calendar

D) Brewery stickers

E) Tap stickers

F) Shelf strips

G) Tear pads (if applicable)

•   Coasters (where legal)

•   Case of glassware (where legal)

•   Tap handle (example)

•   Metal tacker (example)

•   Focus calendar – current quarter or year (wholesale sales rep distribution)

•   Brand matrix chart

•   Copy of retail standards

•   Bin displays (min of 1-2 per rep. for key account opportunities)

1)  Cooler with samples (ice)

2)  Tape

3)  Scissors

4)  Box cutter

5)  Zip ties

6)  Business cards

•    Structured selling process to clearly define, communicate and execute the critical actions of a sales call. The benefit is that standardization removes unnecessary steps and improves efficiency, sales productivity and focus of the sales team. The goal is for each salesperson to become a valued business partner with retailers and distributors through service, relationships, knowledge, collaboration and follow-through. Below is a brief example of a structured sales process:

  Our recommendation is to have the right goals set with the right accounts with the aforementioned in place instead of goals that don’t make sense for accounts and/or geographies that you are targeting based on your plan and budget.

  The goal of every good company is to plan for and achieve realistic business objectives that tie into all aspects of your business. The collaboration of departments into one business will help avoid pitfalls of silo development, which lead to mistrust within your organization and hinders the organization’s performance. As stated with these questions and answers, having a collaborated and efficient organization is the key. If everyone knows their role and targets (not just the sales team) then you can start to operate more effectively and efficiently as one company, tackling the industry together and scaling up efforts to drive elements of your business plan.

  Jack McCraine, Firm Beverage Director with Baker Tilly and leader of craft beverage services for the firm. He has more than 28 years of sales, marketing, consulting, training, revenue management/pricing, sales/service strategy, routing and training experience in the beverage industry. Jack specializes in accelerating client performance with sales and revenue growth, utilizing proven strategies and tactics to achieve business plans for wholesalers and brewers across the country. He has extensive experience with wholesaler distribution systems, compensation and incentive programs to motivate sales organizations.

For more information contact…

Jack McCraine

Firm Director, Baker Tilly


Enhancing your Beer Marketing Strategy with Partnerships

By: Suzanne Henricksen

It can be hard to capture consumer attention in today’s digital age within the increasingly crowded and competitive craft beer industry. We live in a world of short attention spans, information overload, and the constant ding of gadgets begging us to look at something else. While there are many effective marketing strategies to help your brewery stand out in the digital landscape, sometimes it’s even more effective to bring a great marketing idea to life right at the shelf…particularly when it means partnering with another brand that your potential consumers already know and love. In these situations, one plus one can often add up to much more than two, benefiting both brands and helping your brewery grow in awareness and sales.

To do this, more and more breweries are starting to ink partnerships with companies to gain competitive advantage. Often, these collaborations involve parties that have nothing to do with beer, but everything to do with the brand’s values, character, and target consumers. These tend to be quite successful, partly due to the unique combinations of ideas. By success, we mean several factors: it could mean that both parties have profited from the partnership in terms of sales, or that the partnership has created buzz on social media or through publications, increasing awareness and consideration of the brands involved. Indicators such as likes, shares, comments, search queries, feature articles, increased production, and additional projects are used to gauge the reception and success of these beer partnerships. With that in mind, let’s look at a few examples of innovative campaigns that have helped craft beer brands stand out.

Muskoka Salty Caramel Truffle

Beer and ice cream…a match made in heaven. No? Well, this partnership between Ontario craft brewer Muskoka and ice cream maker Kawartha Dairy shows that it’s not as strange as it may seem.

This new brew was a bock-style beer inspired by Kawartha’s popular Salty Caramel Truffle ice cream. The beer had a milk chocolate flavor thanks to roasted malt, and was also infused with salted caramel for a unique taste. A can of this brew was only available for a limited time, which had Canadian craft beer fans scrambling to buy. The brand’s first Facebook post last February about the new product garnered over 500 likes, 118 shares, over 200 comments, and the attention of several publications in Canada.

Star Trek “Captain’s Holiday” Ale

Any product that is attached to a globally popular franchise has good odds of generating high sales. During the 2017 holiday season, Shmaltz Brewing Company launched its Star Trek themed ale, called Captain’s Holiday. The beer is tropical with hints of citrus. While the release was aimed to celebrate the franchise’s 30th anniversary, as reported in Food and Wine, it actually was not the brewery’s first Star Trek deal. Even before this release, they had already launched another Star Trek inspired beer called Symbiosis.

Both beer labels included images of the Starship Enterprise, which is one of Star Trek’s most beloved and recognizable icons. Even casual fans can identify the ship and franchise. This is why it’s often added to all sorts of Star Trek related media, for immediate recognition. This rule certainly applies to brands operating in niche markets, since they’ll be using the Star Trek name as a form of leverage. Suffice it to say, anything Star Trek touches seems to turn to gold. As of this writing, Shmaltz has released over six Star Trek-themed craft beers. Amidst their move back to a contract brewing model, they are most certainly holding onto this product line, which is a sure indication the partnership is lucrative for their brand.

Urban Underdog American Lager

Drinking for a cause? Great idea. Purina, the widely popular pet care brand is lending its name to one of Urban Chestnut’s brews called the Urban Underdog American Lager. Purina donated $3 to the Petfinder Foundation for every eight pack of the brew sold in St. Louis. To help market this partnership, Urban Underdog came up with a campaign called “Consider a Shelter Pet” incorporated into the brand’s packaging. The St. Louis Post Dispatch revealed that Purina planned to donate up to $50,000 so it could offer $50 subsidies toward pet adoption fees.

The campaign rolled out in August 2017 with Urban Underdog expanding distribution in St. Louis in 2018. With its continued distribution, it’s safe to say that the partnership is doing well for both sides. If you are looking for another reason to drink beer, you can consider finding a good home for pets a pretty awesome choice.

Are Partnerships Right For Your Brewery?

Depending on where you are in your brewery journey, marketing partnerships like the ones we’ve shared today can have a variety of benefits. For newer brands, they can put you on the map as a favorite new craft brewery. In these situations, make sure that you have a solid reputation for your own beers first and don’t jump into a marketing partnership too quickly.

For established breweries, partnerships can spread awareness to different audiences to bring in new fans. To find the right partnerships here, talk to your existing customers about what other activities and products they love. A rich pool of potential fans may be found enjoying a broad range of interest from hiking to a genre of movies or music to a certain style of food.

When thinking about collaborations with other brands, remember it is not only creativity and uniqueness that will get people’s attention; the partnership has to be relevant, in sync with recent trends, on brand, and have intrinsic value to your target consumer. As with all good marketing strategies, thinking about the 5Ws is critical…who, what, when, where & why. Then focus on how to actually execute the idea. Make sure you don’t overlook the power of partnering with smaller, local brands. We can’t all land deals with brands as big as Star Trek or Purina but, honestly, depending on your consumer base and brand, partnering with someone that big might not be the right move. So, make sure to focus on the potential value of the partnership for your customers and don’t get distracted by brand star power.

Pursuing these opportunities can be an effective and fun way to spread razor-thin craft beer marketing budgets to reach more people when done right. It’s also a great way to fund the innovative ideas that your brewer wants to explore and raise awareness for causes that are near and dear to the heart of your business. While this is only one of many marketing tactics to help grow brand awareness and sales, it’s an exciting one in today’s digital age since it comes to life tangibly at the point of purchase. And isn’t that what marketing is all about? Let’s raise a glass to working together so consumers find, buy, and enjoy more of your brews.

Contact Suzanne at The Crafty Caskor 510-316-4251

Choosing the Best Growlers, Kegs & Portable Containers for Your Brewery

By: Alyssa Ochs

There’s something wholesome and satisfying about pulling up a barstool or sitting at a table at your favorite brewery and sipping a local craft beer right onsite where it was brewed. However, consumer demand is driving more breweries to offer their beer in portable ways so that beer lovers can take their favorite brews home and on the go.

To address this growing demand, this article will discuss the various options available to breweries for growlers, kegs, and other portable containers. With the insights and input from experts who work in this industry, we’ll also share key considerations to think about when choosing new to-go vessels for your beer business.

The Basics of Portable Containers

The concept of transporting beer in to-go containers is nothing new, but that certainly doesn’t mean that exciting innovations aren’t happening in this industry. Craft breweries of all sizes and types offer their beer in growlers and smaller-size crowlers, which are poured through a tap system and used to preserve beer for a few days up to a few weeks or even longer for personal use. Meanwhile, over 60 million gallons of beer are sold in kegs each year because these vessels are larger, durable, and perfect for parties.

While these are the two main types of portable containers used by craft breweries today, there are other portable container options available to breweries as well. For example, pressurized beer growler kegs have a double-walled design to keep beer cold and carbonated, and pressurized growlers can keep beer fresh for about two weeks. Growler Chill devices are specially designed to extend the life of draft beer, while Hydro Flask offers 40-ounce insulated growlers, and jockey boxes come equipped with stainless steel coils or cold plates, shanks, faucets, CO2 regulators, CO2 tank and beer line connectors, and perhaps even drain trays and cup holders.

Of course, this is all in addition to the onsite sale of bottles and cans. The 22-ounce bomber bottles or 750-milliliter bottles have been increasingly popular with breweries as a way to enabling consumers to take their beer off-site.

“Breweries use these for high-ABV beers like barrel-aged, double IPA’s, imperial stouts, sours, or any other special releases they may have,” said Lance Taylor, the Field Sales Manager for the North Central Region at Boelter Beverage. “There is a huge market for these. It’s also common for these bottles to be topped with wax.”

However, the newest and most creative portable containers are often geared towards use by the end consumer rather than the brewery itself.

“If a brewery is interested in transporting their beer for off-premise consumption, the usual cans, kegs, jockey box, or growler options are likely the best option,” pointed out Kevin Olmstead, the president of Instant Kegs in West Sacramento, California.

Portable Container Sizes

One of the first main things to think about when choosing new portable containers for your brewery is size. There are two main keg sizes: the 1/2 barrel (15.5 gallons) and the 1/6 barrel (5.16 gallons). Additionally, there are some less-standard keg sizes, such as the 1/4 barrel. For growlers, the standard size is 64 ounces, but half growers of 32 ounces each are common in many breweries. One-liter and two-liter growler options are available as well.

Quantity Considerations for Portable Containers

In terms of quantity considerations, breweries can choose between open-system kegs and closed-system kegs. To determine the number of kegs needed, consider who is distributing them, the distance of distribution, and how many keg sizes you want to offer. Breweries also must decide whether to use new kegs or used kegs for the desired functionality and for cost savings purposes. For growlers, breweries should remember that many local customers will reuse their old growlers many times before buying new ones and that visiting customers may bring in growlers purchased at a different brewery to fill up at your own establishment.

Materials for Portable Containers

With regard to materials, beer growlers are typically made from glass, stainless steel, or ceramic. Clear and amber-colored glass are popular for growlers, but glass can break easily, especially in a brewery setting. Stainless steel is durable for growlers but harder to fill and determine how much remains at the bottom. This material is popular for kegs as well. Ceramic growlers are much less common among breweries because they tend to be heavy and more expensive, and this material is breakable too. Plastic is a more inexpensive alternative for growlers and even smaller crowlers. Older kegs were often made from aluminum, but this is less common now as stainless steel has become the preferred keg material among brewers.

Beer Quality and Freshness

Both Boelter Beverage and Instant Kegs agree that quality and freshness are the most important factors for a brewery to consider when choosing growlers or kegs. Taylor of Boelter Beverage told Beverage Master Magazine that breweries may use their growler-filling machine and only sell pre-filled growlers to avoid this concern.

“Some breweries are concerned about light pollution tainting the flavor of beer and will avoid clear growlers,” Taylor said. “While some want to show off the color and ingredients that might filter into the beer and therefore find value in having the consumer see through a clear growler.”

“Some breweries avoid glass growlers completely because they believe beer won’t remain fresh long enough in growlers for the 64 ounces to be consumed,” Taylor went on to explain. “They will go with 32-ounce options only. Often, the 32-ounce option is a crowler, which is a large can filled on site and approximately 32 ounces depending on state laws. This crowler technology was actually developed, patented, and sold to other breweries by Oskar Blues of Canarchy.”

“There are a number of keg manufacturers from all over the world, and it is important for a brewery to be comfortable with the manufacturer and the warranty it will offer on its product,” said Olmstead of Instant Kegs. “Kegs are simply a vessel to store and sell a brewery’s product and should there be any problem with that vessel, a good manufacturer or keg retailer will step in to address any damage or replace any faulty products and lost revenue.”

Other Container Considerations

In addition to size, quantity, and material, there are additional factors to weigh when picking out new portable containers for your beer. For example, consider a container’s ease of cleaning, ability to be refilled, and potential to be returned to a brewery for credit. There is the issue of keg loss to consider because new kegs tend to cost at least $100 each, and kegs can be difficult to track without an effective management system in place.

In that regard, keg availability is a consideration because some retailers, manufacturers, and rental companies may have long lead times in delivering kegs to breweries.

“Oftentimes, these breweries are in a bind and need to fill an order or empty a tank and need the kegs as quickly as possible,” said Olmstead of Instant Kegs. “Breweries should make sure they are scheduling for their keg needs but also have a relationship with a reliable manufacturer or keg retailer they can trust to provide a quality product in a rush.”

Sanitation and cleanliness are of the highest importance, as well as usage recommendations for the best taste. For instance, it is typically recommended to consume beer in standard growlers within 24 hours of opening or within seven to 10 days after filling if unopened. Additionally, the style of beer and brewing method used can influence a brewery’s decision about growler purchases.

“More traditional brewers will often choose flip-top growlers,” said Taylor of Boelter Beverage. “If a brewery has a niche style of brewing, like German, English, Belgian, etc., it will be more interested in an ‘old style’ growler.”

Regardless of beer type, it is important to know local laws governing portable container fills, such as whether a growler can be filled onsite that displays another brewery’s name on it and whether simply rinsing a growler in hot water is sufficient for health code purposes. Since portable containers offer valuable branding and marketing opportunities with the containers’ labeling and design, this is a container consideration too.

Choosing the Best Portable Containers

Certain features of portable containers are very important to modern craft breweries, with particular sizes, materials, artwork, and closures becoming increasingly popular. For growlers, the most popular sizes are the 64-ounce and 32-ounce, although the 128-ounce growler is now available from stainless steel growler manufacturers.

“Many breweries try to differentiate by using more than one color on the growler and trying to get a full wrap print on them,” said Taylor of Boelter Beverage. “Engraving can be done on Hydro Flask growlers, and all of this can be done by Boelter.”

Taylor also told Beverage Master Magazine that powder coating is a nice way to decorate stainless steel growlers and that the bigger the print area the better for breweries to get as much brand exposure as possible.

For kegs, customizations if the most popular feature among breweries right now.

“In the opinion of many, a keg is a keg is a keg,” said Olmstead of Instant Kegs. “However, the ability to customize a keg with a brewery’s logo, name, or artwork is important in any brewery’s consideration in purchasing, leasing or renting kegs.”

Since kegs can be difficult to track once they are placed into distribution, customization lends itself to increased certainty that a brewery will get its keg back once emptied by the customer.

“Customization of kegs can be done in a number of ways, but most breweries are interested in a permanent customization that can be applied quickly and at a minimal cost,” explained Olmstead of Instant Kegs. “For InstantKegs.com, we’ve applied a laser-etching technology to our keg customization menu, which allows us to quickly apply a two-dimensional logo in great detail on each keg very quickly.”

Even with all of these sometimes-tedious decisions to make, there are still so many benefits to offering growlers, kegs, and portable containers to your brewery customers. These vessels offer access to fresh draft beer from local breweries that isn’t necessarily sold in bottles and cans. They come in different sizes and types for consumers to choose from, offer marketing opportunities to advertise your brand, and are eco-friendly to help your beer company reduce its waste and environmental impact.

With all of the great options available on the market today, now is an exciting time to revamp your portable container strategy, and fortunately, there are some highly experienced companies, including Boelter Beverage and Instant Kegs, that are ready and willing to help you through that process.


By: Nan McCreary

Saké has been around for thousands of years, but few Americans are familiar with the drink that is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. That is changing, and it’s changing quickly. With U.S. consumers eager to experience alternative beverages and explore new flavors, saké is on the cusp of a revolution here at home. As imports of saké rise dramatically, local artisans and entrepreneurs are seeing an opportunity for a new niche in the craft beverage market: local saké production.

Currently, there are about 20 saké breweries (Kura) in the U.S., including several that originated as American outposts of Japanese companies. These breweries span from California to Maine, from Texas to Minnesota. Wherever they are located, the owners and master brewers (toji) have one thing in common: a passion for the product. Dan Ford, founder and owner of Blue Current Brewery in Kittery, Maine, is one such devotee. After living and working in Japan for years, he decided to “spread the word” by bringing hand-crafted saké to New England.

“I love saké,” Ford said. “I love making it, and I love to see people smile when they taste it. That’s what drives me.”

So what exactly is this mystical brew that is rapidly growing in popularity in the U.S. and around the world? Saké is an alcoholic beverage fermented from rice. It has often been called ‘rice wine’ but, in fact, it is not a wine. Nor is it a beer, nor a distilled product. Rather, it fits into its own unique category.

“Saké has a little bit of identity crisis because a lot of people consider it a wine, but it’s more like a beer, fermented from grain using a saké yeast,” said Tim Klatt, co-founder of Texas Saké Company in Austin, the only saké producer in Texas. “In the past, people’s knowledge was pretty much limited to ‘hot saké,’ which is basically grain alcohol with a little rice flavoring that’s super cheap and heated up so you can’t really taste anything.  Our approach is to make a much more crafted, artisan product.”

Jack Lien, sales and education ambassador at SakéOne in Forest Grove, Oregon, said their brewery, too, is on a mission to introduce people in the U.S. to the joys of quality saké. “Saké is unique,” he told Beverage Master Magazine. “It’s brewed like a beer and drinks like a wine. It offers a nice alternative for people who are conscious of what they’re drinking. It’s sulfite free and naturally gluten-free. Some are vegan. It’s a unique beverage that intrigues a lot of people.”

Basic Ingredients

Saké comes in a variety of styles, but the basic ingredients are always the same: rice, water, koji (a fungus that converts the starch in rice to sugar) and yeast. Like good beer and good wine, good saké starts with quality ingredients, primarily premium rice. Generally, U.S. brewers source their rice from California’s Sacramento Valley, which grows some of the finest rice in the world. Texas Saké Company uses Calrose rice, the offspring of high-end rice used ages ago in Japan. SakéOne uses mostly Calrose rice and an American grown Yamada-Nishiki rice, known in Japan for its use in quality Saké. Blue Current uses Koshi Hikari, a short grain variety of rice named after the historic Koshi Province in Japan.

Water quality is also important, as completed saké is 80 percent water. “Water is critical because it can affect the final product,” SakéOne’s Lien told Beverage Master Magazine. “Soft water produces a soft and mellow saké, while hard water, which contains certain minerals, produces a more full-bodied saké.” Most American brewers prefer to use soft water.

Saké Production

Production of saké is not for the faint of heart: it is a complex process that takes time, patience and skill that can only be acquired by training and experience. This process starts when the rice first arrives at the brewery, where it is polished to remove the outer husk and prepare it for brewing good saké.

The polishing rates vary, depending on how much of the outside husk of each grain of rice is removed to reach the starchy and more desirable core. In general, the more the rice is polished, the more aromatically expressive the Saké becomes, and the higher the grade. The majority of saké made in the U.S. are junmai ginjo, a high-end saké milled to 60 percent of its original size, although some brewers may polish further.

After the rice is polished, residue from the milling process is washed from the grain, and the rice is saturated with water, depending on the type of rice and the desired characteristics of the saké. Next, the rice is steamed, which changes the molecular structure of the starch in the grain, allowing easier breakdown of that starch.

The next step — making the koji — is the heart of saké-brewing. “The Japanese say there are three pillars of brewing saké,” Blue Current’s Ford told Beverage Master Magazine. “The first pillar is koji, the second pillar is koji, and the third pillar is koji. All things flow from making koji. If you can make really good koji, you can make really good saké.”

In this process, the freshly steamed rice is spread out on long tables in a warm, heated environment known as a koji room. The rice is covered with koji-kin, the “miracle” mold that converts the starch in the rice to a form of glucose. Over the next 36 to 45 hours, the toji constantly tends the koji to ensure that it’s developing properly. “The koji is food for the yeast, and it’s critical to fermentation,” SakéOne’s Lien said. “Our toji, Takumi Kuwabara, has 25 years of brewing experience—13 years in Japan and 12 here—and he makes our koji completely by hand. He’s continually tinkering and tweaking the koji to make sure he gets the recipe just right.”

After the koji is made, a small amount is mixed with steamed rice, yeast and water in a tank to produce shubo or moto, or a fermentation starter. Typically, it takes two weeks to create a small batch of starter with a high concentration of robust yeast cells. Next, all the prep work comes together. Water, steamed rice, saké rice and the fermentation starter are added in three successive stages over four days to create the main mash, which will ferment over the next 18 to 32 days. During this time, the toji may adjust the length of fermentation, temperatures, and other factors in creating a specific saké profile.

The actual fermentation process is what separates saké from beer or wine. In wine, no sugar conversion is necessary, since sucrose is naturally-occurring in grapes. With beer, the creation of sugar and alcohol are separate processes: starches in the grain are converted to sugar in the form of wort, then yeast is added to create alcohol. In saké, conversion of starch into glucose and glucose into alcohol occur simultaneously in a process called multiple parallel fermentation. One of the characteristics of alcohol made in this method is high alcohol content. Saké is usually about 15 percent alcohol by volume and may be as high as 21 percent.

Once fermentation is complete, the saké is pressed to separate the newly created alcohol from the rice solids left in the mash. The saké is then filtered to remove fine particulates and pasteurized to kill off any remaining bacteria and yeast. Finally, the product is aged—usually for three to six months—and then bottled. The time to brew a batch of saké, from start to finish, is around seven weeks.

American Spin

While U.S. craft saké brewers typically follow Japanese methods and traditions for brewing saké, they are putting an “American spin” on the product by using processes and ingredients more suited to the local palate. The Texas saké Company, for example, filters their product less than the Japanese. “This gives a more robust saké with lots of fruity flavors,” co-owner Tim Klatt said. “We’re home brewers from the past, so we’re always trying something different. One of our big pushes is oaked sakés, where we toast oak chips in-house and add them to the brew. This delivers an amazing vanilla and oak and tannin experience, which will even stand up to barbeque.” The Texas Saké Company also produces a line of sparkling sakés with seven percent ABV and is preparing to produce a typical Japanese product that “will bridge the gap” between American and U.S. styles of sakés.

SakéOne is on the cutting edge as well, with its Moonstone brands, flavor-infused sakés. These include Cucumber Mint, Asian Pear and Coconut Lemongrass. All are infused right before bottling. “We are making these to appeal to our wild, pioneering side,” Lien said. “This is what we do to have fun.”

As U.S. Saké brewers look to the future, they see more breweries popping up, and more consumers taking notice. All agree that we can expect to see new products, more experimenting with saké-brewing techniques and broader distribution of American-made saké, both in the U.S. and abroad.

“Craft saké is definitely a niche market,” according to Ford, the Harvard-trained entrepreneur who founded Blue Current Brewery. “People are trying new flavors and looking for the next new thing. As a brewer and frequent traveler to Japan, I think it’s wonderful to open the kimono and show people this wonderful new beverage which is probably the coolest thing people have probably never had. The future is looking good: we’re seeing blue skies ahead.”